22 November – 21 December 2013
Cole, London

Dagmar Heppner is interested in how we perceive our own environments and how this leads to an understanding of our definition of self. Working with sculptural forms that often deploy fabrics to suggest human environments, Heppner uses objects to suggest the presence and absence of people. There is a sense of displacement in the work – things are missing, or objects only partly reveal themselves, offering clues but lacking the final keys of information. The central sculptures in Through stem from tales of how ancient civilisations sought to define their territory by placing stakes in the centre of their villages in order to identify a safe and known space amongst an unknown world. This basic symbol of conquest that came about through a need to define a secure place represents an example of human behaviour or theory that may be entirely futile but was an important act of self assurance. Heppner is interested in the ambiguity of such objects, in that they relate to a purpose, albeit a misguided one. The use of fabric introduces a familiar language, enabling a relationship between viewer and object, something within the form that can be related to. This prods at our means of perception, as we recognize a familiar element within a foreign form. A rope appearing through the rear wall of the gallery space performs a similar role as the known boundary of the space is punctured by this simple act. In the downstairs gallery, doors leading off the space are shrouded with elegant draperies, softly obscuring and reconfiguring the uncompromising combination of concrete floor, strip lights and white walls. Heppner uses fabric to consider the relationship between image and sculpture. Fabric is essentially flat, but being a flexible material it can quickly become three dimensional by draping it, thus creating works that exist on the edge of being two or three dimensional. Forms and images exist as masses rather than specific elements, with original items or objects opening up to abstraction. A knitted woollen pullover is picked apart and unraveled, leaving behind an unruly mess, the material alone alluding to its former function. A similar process occurs in the print of an adapted sewing pattern for a dress. What should be converted into three dimensions is kept flat on a surface, blurring its information by rearranging and overlaying the forms. The once clear guidelines for a piece of clothing are transformed into a geometrical design, again obfuscating the original purpose and function of the pattern. An element of disharmony arrives in the work as Heppner creates uncertain environments that question our own as we try to decode her clues and signifiers.

Tom Cole, press release